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HLT330 Research Skills Guide: General Internet Searching

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia is the well-known free online encyclopaedia. It's not usually recommended as a source for scholarly research or academic writing, as it is open to editing by anyone, and might therefore include information that is biased, incorrect, or misleading.

But, if used with care, Wikipedia articles can have some use for you as students:

  • They will often start with a definition.
  • They can be a good way to get generalised background information, and an overview of a topic that might otherwise be unfamiliar to you.
  • They can suggest alternative terms (synonyms) that you can use as search terms.
  • They can suggest the names of key people involved, and you can search for these people as topics or as authors in scholarly literature.
  • While not regarded as scholarly themselves, they can provide links to other resources that might be considered suitable for your research.
  • There is often a reference list at the end.

But note: As with any resources used in your resource, you should be evaluating any resources that you link to from Wikipedia. We suggest using the CRAP Test: Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose. See the page in this guide on Evaluating information.

You wouldn't want to use Wikipedia as a credited source for your essays. But you might use it as a lead-in to a topic, and as a way to get a definition and/or overview, alternative terms or names to use as search terms, and suggestions of other sources.

Using google effectively

Using Google Scholar

Using Google Advanced Search

Just as you need to be careful in using Wikipedia as a source, you also need to be careful with general Internet searching.

But did you know that you can use Google Advanced Search to return results from particular types of websites? For example, we can use Google Advanced Search to find results from, say, educational websites, or government websites.

First, let's look at the first 4 search boxes at the top of the Advanced Search screen:

all these words: Terms entered here will be combined with the AND operator, and results will contain BOTH or ALL of the terms.
this exact phrase: If you enter multiple terms here, they will be searched for as a phrase.
any of these words: Terms entered here will be combined with the OR operator, and results will contain one or other of the terms.
none of these words: If you enter terms here, results that contain them will be omitted from your results list.

The "Then narrow your results by ..." section contains a number of different boxes, including:

site or domain: You can search for only results from a particular website or type of website by entering its URL or domain. For example, .edu.au will return results only from Australian educational websites; .gov will return results only from American government websites; .abs.gov.au will return results only from the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.
terms appearing: You can change anywhere in the page to in the title of the page, to get results where your search term(s) appear only in the title. This should produce more relevant results.

How do you get to Google Advanced Search?

  • Search for it in Google!
  • Go to the main Google page and replace everything after the country code, if there is one, with /advanced_search. For example, go to www.google.com.au and change the URL to www.google.com.au/advanced_search
  • On the main Google page, click on the Settings link and then click on Advanced Search.